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Sea of Inspiration

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Many people have had to deal with creative blocks, and that includes former Beatle John Lennon. Where did the artist go for inspiration? A boat.

In 1980, Lennon (pictured above with Paul McCartney in a photo taken years earlier) had been dealing with writer’s block for almost five years. Unable to finish writing a single song, he turned to the sea for inspiration.

Lennon, it was reported, had always wanted to sail the Atlantic. On June 4, 1980, that dream became a reality when he boarded the 43-foot Hinckley centerboard sloop Megan Jaye in Newport, Rhode Island, with Capt. Hank Halstead and a small crew. They set off on a 600-mile journey to Bermuda, which would take them through storm-ridden Cape Hatteras and into the notorious Bermuda Triangle.

Approximately 30 hours after setting sail, Megan Jaye encountered a tempest with 120-mph winds and 20-foot seas. Everyone on board except Lennon and the captain became seasick, and eventually even the captain needed to retire from his post, teetering on exhaustion. He had no choice but to leave Lennon, an inexperienced sailor at best, in charge of the boat. Lennon later recalled being smashed in the face by waves for six hours as he navigated the boat through the storm.

“It’s like being on stage,” he said. “Once you’re on there’s no gettin’ off. A couple of the waves had me on my knees. I was just hanging on with my hands on the wheel—it’s very powerful weather—and I was having the time of my life. I was screaming sea shanties and shoutin’ at the gods!”

Calmer seas eventually prevailed, and the crew arrived safely in Bermuda on June 11, 1980. Upon their arrival, Lennon wrote an entry in the ship’s logbook that read: “Dear Megan, There is no place like nowhere,” complete with a sketch of himself and the boat at sunset.

The perilous trip across the ocean seemed to renew Lennon’s songwriting talents. During his stay on Bermuda, which lasted several weeks, he composed approximately 25 songs, including “Watching the Wheels,” “Woman” and “(Just Like) Starting Over.” This creative burst helped Lennon produce Double Fantasy, his final solo album.

This article was originally published in the April 2022 issue.

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